Opinion | Struggling Students Need Their Teachers to Show Up (Bloomberg)


    Opinion | Struggling Students Need Their Teachers to Show Up – By Michael R Bloomberg (Bloomberg) / April 12, 2024

    Pandemic learning loss in America’s schools can’t be reversed until leaders and unions face the problem of chronic teacher absenteeism.

    Across the US, millions of students are struggling to overcome pandemic learning loss. It hasn’t helped that record numbers remain chronically absent from school, but the challenge has been magnified by another disturbing trend: the rise in teacher absenteeism.

    Before the pandemic, teachers had overall attendance rates of 95%, with the average teacher absent less than 10 days per school year, according to a survey of the country’s 30 biggest districts. But among a small group, absenteeism was rampant: 1 out of 10 teachers missed an average of 22 days of work, accounting for a quarter of all absences nationwide. And it has since gotten worse.

    According to the Department of Education, 72% of schools report that teacher absentee rates are higher than they were before the pandemic. In Michigan, teacher absences are 50% above pre-pandemic levels. In Chicago, 43% of teachers were chronically absent last school year, up from 37% the prior year. In New York City, chronic absenteeism rose to 19% from 16%.

    What explains this trend? It may be that managing students’ poor academic performance, behavior issues and mental-health challenges has contributed to higher levels of stress and burnout. But it also seems that, just as the pandemic loosened attendance norms for students, it has done so for teachers, too. It’s become more acceptable to be absent a lot — and students are paying the price.

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